An Open Letter to My Sponsors

Dear Fatty and JenniHoops,

By now you have probably read the report of my race in Velonews today. No? Weird. They were supposed to have that up by now. I mean they are really really interested in the progress of my racing career. Clearly they just haven’t had time to post the article yet. Since you both are sponsoring my racing, I wanted to clarify a couple of things that are reported in that article. There is more to the story than their slanted one sided “reporting” of the facts.

My race today was tough. But that’s only part of the story. The story of this race really started last weekend when I wrecked my rear derailleur on a stick. By Wednesday night I had my bike repaired, but it really ruined the flow of my week. Friday I went out to some local trails to test the repairs and all was well. Saturday I went back to those trails to warm up. That’s when the second disaster struck.

I wasn’t pushing it really hard. I wanted to work on my single track form and find my flow leading up to the race. I felt really good. Nice form, leaning in the corners, look ahead on the trails. I came up to a sandy corner and set up for it. I was starting to lean my bike to start the turn when my rear tire washed out under me. There was just a little bit of slick hard pack mud right before the corner and I found it. I went down hard. Really hard. My arms and legs were scraped up. (Well at that time they were caked in mud and sand. I would learn later when I was picking the sand out of the scrapes that I was scraped up.) The right side of my bike was covered in mud. I finished my ride, but was hurting. BTW. The rumor that Maxxis Ikons are treacherous in mud? Well I can conform that.

maxxis_ikons

They are really fast rollers on hard pack. But they do not shed mud. You might as well be on slicks.

Here I was going into a race, on a course I had never ridden before, in mud and beaten up physically (my shoulders and neck were really sore).

I finally caught a break when Noah (you remember Noah right? The Columbine Aid Station kid) got invited for a sleep over and I was free to get to the race as early as I wanted. I got to the course before the first races went off and went to pre-ride it.

Let me say that the Addison Oaks MTB trails are a lot of fun. They are fast and flowy. Well burmed corners with a really nice rythm. I was feeling better about the race. Well except for the fact that I was really sore from my crash. My neck and shoulders were stiff. Still, in true Team Fatty Hoops spirit I decided to soldier on.

As an aside, while I was waiting for the race and walking around in my Fatty kit (“Halloween Retro” FC kit) someone said “Hey I am rocking that kit today too. It was a fellow Friend of Fatty (Hi David if you read this!). We got to chatting about 100 MoN and what out plans were. He was racing SS so I didn’t see much of him during the race. (It’s always like meeting a long lost brother when you stumble on a FoF in life. After the race we commiserated while eating pie. We both brought some. Love my Fatty Brothers! And really, pie is good for all possible situations, so why would you not have it with you?)

So that is the set-up for the race. Messed up week of training, hard fall that left me battered, on a course I didn’t know very well. Well except for ONE other small thing. I, as my gaming sons would say, “leveled up”. This was to be my debut as a Sport Class rider.

Now I put this decision to ride as in the Sport class on another “Friend” of Fatty who shall remain nameless (DavidH) who mercilessly teased me about riding in the Novice division in June. MERCILESSLY. I believe I was accused of sandbagging. Yeah I won that race and yes I did get my prizes while wearing a Leadville buckle,

domnarski_farm_podium-1

but it was actually my second XC race ever. Not wanting to take any more heat I decided to go Sport.

OK, the race. It was clear from the start that the Sport division is a totally different animal from Novice. The pace is a lot higher. And, and those guys have learned something that the novice riders don’t quite know yet: how to pace themselves for a race. No one blew up for the entire race.

I held onto the back of the pack for the first lap. I was pushing myself, but was flowing well on the trail. Not as well as the people who knew the trails, but I was happy with my effort.

Towards the end of that first lap my race became infinitely more difficult. My shoulder and neck started to ache and then started to hurt. It started to be really hard to use my upper body for the climbs, and my speed dropped. My second lap was not fun. I had to do a third lap and was not looking forward to it. But I decided I was going to go as hard as my battered body would allow me to go. I stood to climb. I tried to flow, and I tried to really crank on the fast flat sections of the course.

I was passed by a friend who I met at Leadville and he asked how I was doing. I told him I was struggling and he  told me to get onto his wheel. I did for a while but could not sustain it. Still my 3rd lap was faster than my second and I am proud of that. My mental game was better on that lap.

In the end (as Velo will report) my finish wasn’t great. But I didn’t finish last! And my “No you go on, I am Riding Sweep” T-shirt, which I was wearing, remains a nice joke, not the truth.

So there you go, my Addison Oaks XC race in nutshell. I am sitting here licking my wounds (physical and mental) right now and recovering. In two weeks I go to another new course and race in the Pando Challenge. I am looking forward to racing in a race in which my bike is working and I am not beat up. It would be a nice change.

Thanks

Doug

Status: Normal

Sunday is race day. Let’s take stock for a minute.

1. I have never raced this course. In fact, I have never even ridden on this course. Unless I can get out early on Sunday my first trip around the course will be at race pace.

2. My training this week was poor at best. Bike issues plagued me all week disrupting my normal race week preparation.

That means the situation is totally out of hand. Just like Team Fatty Hoops likes it. I mean its just a 1.5 hour race, with people I have never ridden with. What could possibly go wrong??? :)

But things are rounding into shape. I finally received the parts I needed to fix my bike yesterday. The mountain bike is back up. It was more of a process than I thought it would be, but I got it done. See:

fixed

I am going to be able to get a good warm up ride in this evening. And tomorrow I am going to ride some trails to get my single track swerve on.

Time to BRING IT.

(Not sure what it is I am bringing. Hopefully its not a pile of poo. Guess we will see :) )

 

So much potential

Hey Michigan Bikers,

It’s time to wake up! I rode my mtb on the roads around Lansing on Saturday. Here is the thing. When I uploaded my ride to STRAVA I was shocked, nay dismayed to find out that I was placing kind of high up in the segments on my ride. (I was actually quite surprised to find out there were segments. Where I live segments are usually some sort of steep or long or both climb. But I guess you have to go with what you got.)

OK, here is the deal. I was on a MOUNTAIN BIKE. A mountain bike that is geared for climbing, not riding flat. On one segment I am now 4th. Its dead flat for 3.6 miles. I was 23 seconds out of first. Seriously? No drop handles, 2.2″ tires, 36×11 gearing. That’s all you got?

Even on the other segments I am in the top 20% of the riders.

Come on now. It’s time to get your game on. Seriously.

Thanks,

Doug

PS. If I had my road bike here…………

Magic Salsa

Sunday I had a 2.5 hour mtb ride on the schedule to tune up for a race next weekend. I found a nice 10 mile mtb trail and was really looking forward to this ride. So I ate a good breakfast and interrupted Noah from his Skype/game with friends at home to tell him I would be back in a couple of hours. (He managed to pull himself away long enough to say “OK”.)

My plan was to ride two laps on this trail. One to warm up and one to go really hard. I was feeling good, flowing nicely on the trails. Leaning the bike in the corners braking when I needed too. Then…..

My pedals stopped turning. Not because I stopped turning them, but because they would no longer turn. That’s not right. I looked down and saw a 2″ stick in my rear wheel and derailleur. So I stopped and pulled it out. My derailleur looked a little bent so I reached down to bend it back so I could finish up my ride.

But I forgot that carbon fiber doesn’t bend it brakes. That’s when I saw my chain was hanging loosely within a broken cage. I got to take a 1 mile “walk of shame” back to my car. When I got home and put my bike on the stand I saw this.

broken-1

Broken cage and a bent hanger. Normally this would be just an annoying (though expensive) set back. But I have two unique problems right now. This is my only bike. Without it no riding. And I am racing on Sunday. The internet is a wonderful thing and so the new rear derailleur is on the way. Amazon Prime is awesome (I got 2 day shipping for free!). But what to train with while I am waiting?

Humm.  I had a plan! Have you figured it out yet? Remember a couple of weeks ago I talked about my bike? Well my bike has the cool dropouts that allow me to change to single speed. So that’s what I did. I invoke advantage #1!

The derailleur came off. I shortened my chain and put it back on.

single_speed-1

Instant single speed. The only real issue is that it’s geared a little stout (36×17, that’s 61.4 “gear inches” on my 29er). I picked that because you need to make sure the chain is straight (so it doesn’t want to jump off the cassette) . 22x whatever would have been too easy. It’s relatively flat here, so I picked my poison. Grind gearing.

Noah and I went riding later in the day. He doesn’t believe in using his gears so he essentially rides a single speed, and I couldn’t use my gears. We had a nice ride.

Still I can’t wait for Wednesday so I can get the gears back up and running for my race.

Picture of the Day

noah_apples

“Fall in Michigan”

It didn’t take long

The people who live near me back home are now pretty used to seeing me doing things normal people wouldn’t do on a bike. You know things like go hard up a hill  and then ride softly for 5 minutes. Repeat 12 times over the course of an hour. Heck I don’t even think the dogs back home are barking at me anymore.

Well it was time to introduce a whole new section of the world to my personal craziness. Yesterday was short but hard interval day. I was supposed to do this on the “steepest hill” I could find. Alright, except that there are no hills by me in Michigan. Flat as a pancake. Now behind my apartment is a little dirt loop. And by little I mean its about 1/4 mile long. Technically its an access road that forms an oval loop to the transformers that are near by. Its like a short running track, but made of dirt with a small woods in the middle. There is a small grassed over path that goes up a small hill (about 15ft of elevation gain) that leads to the loop. OK not the same as home, but good enough for some sprint workouts. I warmed up and hit the loop.

spartan_two_track-1

(That’s pretty much it. Exciting eh?)

Now the other thing about this little loop is that it borders the community gardens that are in my complex. Two women (not from the US) were out tending their gardens, and for an hour I would fly pass them hard for 30 seconds. Sometimes sitting, sometimes standing. But all out either way. Then I would soft pedal around the loop for 5 minutes (2 loops). And repeat.

It got me wondering what they thought of this crazy American guy. Here I am all kitted up (wearing my Leadville jersey, not that that meant anything to them) in with tight spandex shorts. Spending a good amount of time just going around in a circle. Maybe they didn’t spare a thought as they worked in their gardens. Maybe I was dinner conversation.

The other observers I had to my romp was a flock of turkeys. They ran to get out of my way by running in the the middle part of the loop. By the time I got to the other side they were trying to cross there. They ran back into the middle and I met them on the other side. The process repeated. Wild turkeys are not the smartest beings that have roamed this Earth. My real concern was that I would hit one, but that at least never materialized.

It was an oddly satisfying ride.

(And as a bonus, I know where my 100 Mile of Nowhere will be ridden.)

Michigan

So Noah and I are all set up in our new (but temporary) home. Today is the first day of school for Noah and the first day at work for me (Yes Dave, we actually work when we are on sabbatical. Its supposed to be fun work, but I do have stuff to do!). Noah was nervous this morning. But he is a brave kid and so I think he will be fine. Some routine for him will be good, even if it is slightly different routine than back at home.

For me this is all a little familiar. Michigan State is where I did my graduate work and I am here working with my adviser. So it is something like going home.

Biking wise Michigan is different. First where we are it is FLAT. I rode something like 24 miles the other day and had about 200ft of elevation gain. Not a good Leadville training place. There are three places close by that I can ride some single track. But I really have to drive to all three.

I have been to one so far. It is easy. No real rocks. Only some roots. (Lots of deer. Its a protected area. I saw a massive 10pt buck when I was riding. Not a common sight where I live.)  The only real obstacles are man made ones they put in.  That’s kind of too bad, but on the bright side you can absolutely rip these trails. They are fast and flowy. I cannot wait to take Noah out there. They will be perfect for him.

The other weird thing is that there seams to be more of a bike racing culture here. The two races I want to do are part of a Michigan XC series. We have so many fun trails at home, but almost no racing. Here fewer trails but more racing. Strange.

Anyway, we are here, alive, and living on the edge of our comfort zone. Good things will happen. Probably with a couple of bumps, but that is the point right? :)

Comfort Zones

Coreen and I were shopping in a gift shop the other day and I was looking at magnets. You know the kind that have some dorky little sayings that you put on your fridge door. I found this one and stopped:

life_comfort

I had been reading Rebecca Rusch’s book at the time and I thought about how that applies to pushing yourself to go hard and do things, well, on a bike. I bought the magnet and it is sticking to my fridge door at home. ( I am a dork.)

Noah and I made it safely to Michigan to begin our grand adventure. The drive was sublimely boring. Just what you want from a long drive. We are staying in a apartment complex on campus. This apartment is for visiting scholars and so it is fully stocked (right down to sheets and towels, good thing we brought our blenderS though, non of those).

Still we needed to get some basics and so we headed out for dinner and to the store.

Noah and I were both really tired and at the store Noah had his moment where he realized that we were in MICHIGAN not NEW YORK and we were going to be away from MOM for a long time. I did some crisis management (Meijer is not a place for full blown therapy) and we headed back to the apartment.

It was at that time that I realized that stupid little magnet meant more than just riding a trail that is a little hard than I am used to, or doing a bike race that is different. In many ways pushing myself on my bike at home, well its totally IN my comfort zone. Stupid magnet.

This trip is the longest I have ever been away from my favorite girl. We have been together for 25 years and the longest we have been apart from each other is something like a week and a half. When I go on vacation, well I like to be away about a week or so. Much more than that and I really start to miss my home.

Noah? Well right now and overnight is a long trip for him away from home.

We definitely have stepped out of our comfort zone. In the end its going to be a great trip for the two of us. Noah is going to grow up a lot on this trip. I think its going to be a great experience. East Lansing is a different from Potsdam, the only place Noah really knows. (We bought a lock for his bike. They lock their bikes here because people steel them. Weird.) MSU so very different from Clarkson. (The MSU football stadium would take up the majority of Clarkson’s campus. Seriously. I am not joking.)

I know it won’t be easy for us all of the time. (Authors note: I knew this on some level and probably could even have said those words. But I am not sure I really internalized that fact. Wednesday came the internalization.)

Yesterday (our first full day in Michigan) was much better than the day we arrived. Sleep is a beautiful thing. We are making our new home ours. We got the internet up and running. Noah was able to make contact with his friends from home. (Skype used for good reasons!) We registered Noah for school and got a library card. I got my MSU ID card. (I am here for an ID. Faculty right?…. Geez not even looking young enough to be a grad student anymore.)

I needed to go out for lunch with my adviser and Noah elected to stay home rather than come. I was able to relax just a little bit because I knew Noah was relaxing. Our comfort zone is expanding. It won’t be Nirvana all the time. But that’s true even at home. I think today we are going to need to get some tickets for a football game. Oh and we need to watch the video we borrowed from the library.